Principles for Robustness

“Snow Crystal” — Wilson Alwyn Bentley

In an article in Harvard Business Review, “The Biology of Corporate Survival*” the authors lay out some principles for managing complex adaptive systems. While framed for a business audience, these principles could be applicable to the complex adaptive system (or, perhaps more aptly, the “complexicated” system) of a school.

The authors delineate a set of principles for robustness into structural features, and managerial levers:

Structural Features

  • Heterogeneity (Diversity)
  • Modularity
  • Redundancy

Managerial Levers

  • Expect surprise, but reduce uncertainty
  • Create feedback loops and adaptive mechanisms
  • Foster trust and reciprocity

How might these principles apply in a school?

I’ll leave that to you to contemplate, but for the record, I’ll note that most public school managers typically do quite poorly in reducing uncertainty and in fostering trust.

 

* “The Biology of Corporate Survival – Harvard Business Review.” 2015. 15 Apr. 2016 <https://hbr.org/2016/01/the-biology-of-corporate-survival>

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Keiretsu and School Ecosystems?

By Luinfana (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
The Rise of the Ecosystem

The third feature of the modern economy is that firms are increasingly finding that their competitive advantage comes from collaboration with other firms and individuals rather than solely through their own efforts. This is where all the talk about “ecosystems” comes from.   But once again, although it may be getting more popular as an approach, it is not something entirely new. Japan has had keiretsu for a long time.   What’s more, the fact that companies may obtain competitive advantage through building ecosystems doesn’t change what the competitive advantage is that they obtain from building them: either the ecosystem enables their differentiation or generates a cost advantage.

–Roger L. Martin, “There Are Still Only Two Ways to Compete” on Harvard Business Review